I ended up getting into “Romantasy” vibes this month. It started with the first book of the “Blood And Ash” series, then I was intrigued to read the second book, and then I got into “The Fourth Wing” sensation. I listened to a non-fiction audiobook, and there was one fiction book I read for my book club that I didn’t enjoy. But overall, I had lots of fun with dragons and vampire-like folks!
Still Distracted After All These Years: Help and Support for Older Adults with ADHD by Kathleen G. Nadeau, 288p (Audiobook): Good information, it brings successful examples of how to make life adjustments after retirement for people with ADHD. It mentions the importance of keeping a simple life, reaching out for help or support groups, exercising, diet, practising mindfulness and having social support. It gave me some insights on the difficulties adults with ADHD can face when getting older.
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, 320p: The premise is beautiful, it hints at deep reflections about being human, but it didn't work for me. The dialogues were super weird and unnatural, they really bothered me. I missed more exploration of the technology behind the Artificial Friends (AF) and how they worked. Was Klara all mechanical? Was she an android? I wasn't convinced that AF's would find mystical significance in the Sun. The story hints at several themes but never really goes deep: environmental pollution, empathy, robots taking over human jobs, loneliness, gene editing, social class privilege. The plot is super simple and predictable, and the ending was very bleh.
From Blood and Ash (Blood And Ash #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout, 613p: I just couldn't put this book down! Twisty tale. I enjoyed following the story through only one point of view (the female main character). I liked the level of suspense and how aspects of the world building are unveiled slowly. All is told through the point of view of The Maiden, our main character Poppy. She is a guarded figure in the realm, nobody can interact with her. So she doesn't know the world outside and we as readers are there with her discovering nasty secrets about the kingdom. The romance was interesting. It's not really enemies to lovers in the beginning, it's more like stranger-bodyguard romance (Hawke) that turns into enemies to lovers. [SPOILERS AHEAD! ] ===> This book had some plot twists that got me by surprise. I was expecting a typical “enemies to lovers” romance trope plot, but it actually had some surprising elements I was not expecting. The romance is not “happily ever after” in this one. I was not fully prepared for the ending. I was shocked by the final plot twist. We discover there are vampire-like and werewolf-like people in this world. Hawke was disguised as a royal guard all this time just to capture Poppy, and he is an Atlantian, aka “The Dark One” who basically wants to destroy Poppy's kingdom. Hawke turns out to be a ruthless, brutal killer. It's a very complicated relationship, and it got me curious to read the second book in the series. But I still enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would.
A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire (Blood And Ash #2) by Jennifer L. Armentrout, 531p: This second book continues right off where the first one ends. There is a lot of world building info dump as it explains a lot more about the Atlantians, wolven bonds and Vamprys. The world of politics and magic just continues to get more complex and nuanced. The pace slows down halfway through as there is a lot of travelling and lodging. [SPOILERS AHEAD! ] ===> The main characters are on their way to Atlantia and there is time for Poppy and Casteel to reconcile, so their “reunion” didn't feel rushed or forced. I was surprised at how I changed my mind about Casteel: he turned out to be a nice guy in light of all the terrible things happening in this world. Poppy discovers that her whole life was a lie, and we see her growing, regaining her confidence and being able to express her true self. It felt to me like a “second chance” type of romance, because now Poppy knows Casteel's true identity and there is relationship development all over again. It ends with a bang, and it seems the explanation of exactly what happened in the end is in the next book. I was intrigued again!
Fourth Wing (The Empyrean #1) by Rebecca Yarros, 512p: Another book that I enjoyed more than I thought I would! We follow Violet SorrengaiI when she joins the Basgiath War College to become a dragonrider in the kingdom of Navarre. All she wanted was to become a scribe, but her mother, who is a war General, forces her to join the Dragonriders Quadrant, instead of the Scribe Quadrant. Just to keep family tradition (her older siblings were also dragonriders). I feel bad about the ruthlessness nature of this military school (there are zero concerns with safety and well-being of the cadets) but I got past that. Cadets die if they make mistakes or fail the crazy challenges and tests assigned to them. They are prepared to bond with a dragon and become a rider. The bond is strong, rider and dragons can telepathically communicate. And if you're a rider and your dragon dies, you die! I'm loving the mental banter-dialogues between the riders and the dragons. The romance is a slow burn, well-developed enemies-to-lovers. It's over the top and I loved it! I definitely want to check out the second book in the series.
These are some of the things that happened in my life lately:
⛸️ I’m making slow but steady progress in my ice skating skills. I’ve been practising forward crossovers going counterclockwise. I can’t do it going clockwise yet: doing anything where I support all my weight on my right leg is super hard! I got a pair of knee pads to use while I’m skating, and they are great! I fell yesterday on an exercise to practice how to use outside edges, and I didn’t feel a thing. I should have gotten them earlier, I feel a little bit more confident and less afraid of falling now.
💪 I changed my gym exercises a little bit to focus more on leg strength. And that’s been helping me with ice skating. Although ice skating is a lot about balance, having legs and glutes strength helps a lot to maintain balance and to be able to push myself. I’ve been focusing on squats, one leg deadlifts, lunges and curtsy squats.
🎮 It’s been a while since I played any video games. It’s something I’ve been planning on getting into again. So I finally started a game of one of my favourite series: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. It’s great because I can play with a female character! I don’t remember having that option in any of the previous games of the series.
📅 I had another very busy week at work, in which we were closing a very big job. I can say that Time Blocking was an excellent way to manage my stress and organize myself through chaos. Also, keeping up with my morning and shutdown routines was crucial for me to survive the past two weeks. I’m looking forward to getting a couple of days off this week.
🌲 Temperatures are dropping around here, keeping in the low single digits (in Celsius). Most all the leaves have fallen, and I went out for a couple of lovely hikes.
⛸️ I've made some progress in ice skating: I did my first forward crossovers while practising in a circle! I can only do it going counterclockwise, and it's awkward and wobbly, but it's progress!
📖 I finished reading this romance fantasy book that had some plot twists that got me by surprise. I was expecting a typical “enemies to lovers” romance trope plot, but it actually had some surprising elements I was not expecting. And even the ending was not what I usually see in these books, it's a complicated relationship, and it got me curious to read the second book in the series. The first book is “From Blood and Ash” by Jennifer L. Armentrout.
🥳 I discovered that Nirvana now accepts all types of emojis. I can put emojis on the project titles, next actions and labels. Some months ago, only the black and white Unicode Symbols would show properly, and I used some for my contexts list. But now emojis are working!
😃 My neighbourhood community started building our outdoor ice rink. It's not ready yet, but I'm looking forward to going skating there when it's ready.
The ladies at the Reading Glasses Podcast often talk about a reader’s Wheelhouse and Doghouse. The reading Wheelhouse are genres, settings, character traits, plots, etc. in books that you enjoy reading about. The Doghouse can be themes, genres, situations, triggers that you avoid.
I just finished a book for my Book Club meetup next week. It's from an acclaimed author, who won a Nobel Prize, and I really didn't get into it. Although I didn’t like the book overall, it was a useful insight into my reading life.
I just started putting these together: here are my latest Wheelhouse and Doghouse lists:
Engaging magic systems
Smart robots / Androids / AI’s
Space Operas / Space Travel
Anti-heroes who want to do good things
Badass female protagonists
Characters winning by outsmarting opponents, instead of overpowering them
🤧 I didn’t write last week because I caught a minor cold, it wasn’t bad, but I was feeling under the weather and just rested.
📺 I finished watching “Good Omens” Season 2. I enjoyed the ride, but the ending was a little bit disappointing. It’s kinda of a cliffhanger? Maybe the show could have ended before the last episode, because it seemed to me they could wrap up the whole Gabriel plot and call it a day, instead of adding Aziraphale’s decision to change his current situation.
🚗 The car winter tires are installed, let it snow, I’m ready! ❄️
⛸️ I’m making slow progress on my ice skating skills. I’ve been practising one-foot glides, and changing from one foot to the other. It’s way harder to glide on my right foot than on my left, which seems counterintuitive to me. I can’t do a crossover yet, but I’m working on it. Small steps.
📖 I’m indulging myself in this Fantasy romance novel called “From Blood and Ash” by Jennifer L. Armentrout. The plot is somewhat predictable, but I’m enjoying following the story through only one point of view. I just can’t put it down!
📆It’s been one month since I started using Cal Newport’s second edition Time Block Planner. It’s been great! I used it every day at work and I feel like it has greatly improved my work routines. I’m consistently doing the shutdown routine, and I’m loving my weekend now!
💉I got my Flu shot and the new COVID-19 vaccine. The only side effect was a sore arm.
I'm not a fan of horror books, but I decided to try one out to see if I would like it. I chose “How to Sell a Haunted House” by Grady Hendrix as my Halloween read because I heard it was more “spoopy” than full-on horror. It was also recommended as a good beginner book for the horror genre. The premise of the book, which seemed to be about selling a haunted house, intrigued me.
However, I discovered I really don't enjoy stories about haunted spirits or ghosts, and this book had weird haunted puppets and dolls, and it was not interesting enough to me. Maybe it felt too predictable and cliche? I also found myself getting tired of all the family drama background and had trouble connecting with the characters. Although the first few chapters were interesting, I stopped reading at 40% because it wasn’t for me (yeah, I was trying hard to get into it). I’m glad I stopped before things got too creepy and intense.
Anyway, lesson learned: horror is not my genre at all. Reader know thyself!
Babel by R.F. Kuang, 556p: This is probably the first Dark Academia genre book I've read and although the theme is indeed dark, I'm enjoying it. It's a mixture of alternate history with fantasy and serious criticism of colonialism. It's very well written, using England's Oxford University in the 1800s as background. I liked it, even though it’s a sad book. It's sad, but it was a page turner for me (which doesn't usually happen with sad books for me). I loved the writing style, and I cared about the characters, I wanted to know what would happen to them, and that kept me going. I also enjoyed the discussions about origin of words and how they relate in different languages (etymology). I didn't think the “magic” system (silver working) was super exciting. It was subtle, and it was interesting that the author used the concept of “missed translation” between languages to create power. Cool to see a magical version of the industrial revolution, explaining why the British Empire was so much more powerful than the rest of the world. The author's time and effort put into research was obvious. It goes deep into racism and colonialism. It goes deep into privilege and wealth and power over oppressed people. Inequality. Cultural appropriation. Xenophobia. It’s heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time.
A Perfect Equation (The Secret Scientists of London #2) by Elizabeth Everett, 322p: Another historical romance with some modern twist. This one is about the lady mathematician Letty, and Lord Greycliff. I thought Lord Greycliff was super annoying at the beginning, although he gets better by the end. There were some fun banter moments between the two. The plot of this one was not as interesting as the first book.
A Night to Surrender (Spindle Cove #1) by Tessa Dare, 400p: I loved the setting: a place by the sea where unmarried women can go to restore and explore their interests, like a summer camp. They go on country walks, they go sea-bathing, they garden, they even shoot firearms! No men allowed until a group of military men reaches Spindle Cove. This was a super fun and lighthearted enemies-to-lovers trope book. I loved the writing style. This is the second romance book I read by this author (I read “Romancing the Duke” years ago) and I forgot how delightfully fun and sexy her writing was. It was the perfect fluffy read with a strong red-haired female lead (Susanna Finch) and an alpha hero who was not cringy (Bram, or the new Earl of Rycliff).
The Chaos Machine: The Inside Story of How Social Media Rewired Our Minds and Our World by Max Fisher, 389p: This is a very in depth presentation of facts on how technology can impact society and social movements. It describes in detail how Facebook aimed to increase the number of friends users had (they wanted to surpass the Dunbar limit of 150) by enforcing it through changes in their algorithms. Then it discusses the Trump election and the rise of right-wing posts, videos and groups in social media. Chapters 4 and 5 covers the rise of machine learning algorithms and how all platforms started promoting and amplifying more outrageous/radical content. And how the average user's time on these platforms skyrocketed around 2016. And then, Trump's and Bolsonaro's election in the USA and Brazil respectively, which were fuelled by social media. The rise of alt-right movements. The pandemic and all the misinformation campaigns during that period. It’s a full exposition of how social media had (and still has) real life dire consequences.
This is a series of posts with reading notes of the book “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” by David Allen.
Chapter 09 – Engaging: Making the Best Action Choices
This chapter is all about deciding what to do at any given moment. It examines on what was presented in Chapter 02 in terms of the 3 primary frameworks for decision-making:
The Four-Criteria Model for Choosing Actions in the Moment
The Threefold Model for Identifying Daily Work
The Six-Level Model for Reviewing Your Own Work
1. The Four-Criteria Model for Choosing Actions in the Moment
This is about what we have available at the moment and what can we do about it.
I think context is what mostly differentiates GTD from other productivity systems in terms of how to organize our tasks. The principle here is that it’s easier to have lists already sorted out to act on: “what could you possibly do, where you are, with the tools you have?”.
I find this works pretty well to organize the next actions list and avoid looking at a super long list. This is the first criteria to decide what to do next: what do you have available right now?
I mainly use the basic contexts suggested by the book (at home, computer, errands, anywhere, etc.) but we can also be more creative and have lists tailored to how we work. It could be a “quick win” list with actions that are easy to complete, or “surfing the web” or “before trip”.
Another important note is that the contexts can change over time, and it’s okay to create new ones and delete old ones. They are very flexible, contexts can be anything that suits the way we want to look at our lists. But it’s also important to keep it simple. If we need to think too much to input something in our systems, we end up not doing it at all.
These are some of the things that happened in my life this week:
📺 I finished watching the “One Piece” show on Netflix. I liked it! Great storytelling, I cried, and I smiled and I laughed.
📕Had a great discussion with my local Bookclub about the book “Babel” by R. F. Kuang. Some people didn’t finish, some people loved it, some people didn’t like it. I enjoyed it, even though it’s a sad book. It’s heartbreaking but beautiful.
⛸️ We started going to drop-in public skating sessions on Sundays, in addition to the skating classes. I realized how hard it is for me to do a forward crossover. I can't keep enough balance, and I don't seem to have enough strength to stay in a one legged position. I'll add some exercises to my routine like: squats, single Leg Deadlifts and Reverse Lunges to strengthen my muscles.
✅ I did complete a Work Weekly Review on Friday Oct 20th before heading out for the weekend!
🙂 Even though it rained the whole weekend, I enjoyed every minute of it. I wasn't anxious, I rested, I read, I did some puzzle, watched a show and even went ice skating. All of that on top of the usual chores (laundry, dishes, groceries, cooking, etc.). I haven't had such a great relaxing weekend in months.
I’ve had some rough weeks these couple of months in terms of dealing with my own anxiety. I’ve had ups and downs: one week I’m thriving, the other I’m overwhelmed. The past two weeks I’ve been feeling everything is great: I’m not feeling overwhelmed, I’m sleeping well, I have no pain or aches, I’m not having racing thoughts, and I’m not drowning in worry.
In my therapy session this week, my therapist asked me why I was feeling better, and what has changed that made me feel this way now?
I looked back at my journal entries and my weekly notes and came up with 4 reasons:
Journaling in the morning and protecting my morning routine: I skipped some of this routine and my days became out of focus, filled with anxiety and stress. My morning routine became my rock, I really feel out of wack when I miss it. It consists of moving my body (usually Yoga, but also stretching and body weight exercises), meditation and journaling. These 3 combined give me a push to start the day mindfully.
Planning on Mondays: I noticed how important it is for me to do a longer session on Monday mornings to plan the week. I've been using Cal Newport's second edition Time Block Planner, and it's been great! Lots of space to plan the week. And I’m also changing my Monday mindset: Mondays are for planning and catching up, I don't need to accomplish any big tasks on Mondays and that's okay. This helped go through the past 2 weeks handling 5 concurrent projects at work that I thought I wouldn’t be able to manage.
Realizing that I need a Work Weekly Review on Fridays: It needs to be separate from my personal weekly review, and it needs to be before the weekend, so I don't stress about work when I don’t want to. This was huge! After years practising GTD I didn’t realize that I could have 2 separate weekly reviews, and that it would make such a difference to my mental health.
Having the new car situation resolved: It was a relief to be certain that I could maintain my morning routine now that we solved the issues of our morning commute. Not having to leave earlier because of the logistics of taking buses and carpooling saved me a lot of mental stress. I didn’t realize how much this worry was weighting down on me. My morning routines are the rocks of my day! Can't miss them!
So I’m basically back in my groove, writing things down, planning my days and weeks and doing my shutdown routine at work. These routines allow me to be more focused at work and allow me to be mostly stress-free.
All these reflections led me to also rethink my GTD tools (more on that later)😉